A Chat With
“My Christianity is a never ending source of nourishment and I feel so enriched by faith,” he says. “I would like more gay men to experience the beauty of faith.”
Philip Baldwin is certainly unusual, and a larger-than-life character. Young, Christian and gay. He knew his orientation when he was in his teens, but his encounter with Christianity came much later. Now, the 30-year-old says that it is not only the key to his being, it is the driving force in all he does.
After graduating from Oxford (Modern History) and Cambridge (History of Art and Architecture), he then undertook a law conversion course and began working with one of the leading law firms in London. Indeed, his role at this Magic Circle firm seemed to have set him up for life.
However, at the age of 24 he was diagnosed as HIV positive, and while at the time it was a hammer blow, it was to take his life in a completely different direction.
It was in the months after that diagnosis that he found inspiration in visiting churches in the City of London. But although his initial interest was in the architecture, he found God breaking through.
“In October 2013 I started to feel there was more to this than beautifully arranged columns, architraves and cornices.
“In November 2013 I was inspired, when sitting in St Lawrence Jewry, to ask if I could take home a Bible to read. They gave me one and this is still the Bible I use today. I sleep with my Bible next to my bed, or with it under my pillow. I think of the love of Jesus protecting me and feel happier and safer.”
He says that he has had ‘an incredible journey of faith’ since he was given that Bible.
The powerfully built young man (he works out at the gym five times a week) has used this Bible so much that he will shortly have it rebound, but he doesn’t want to part with it.
He points out that most gay people in churches were Christians before they realised they were gay, but he was the opposite.
I ask him about the comment made by Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland. She said that it was harder for her to come out as a Christian than to come out as gay.
“I have huge respect for Ruth and for what she has done for the Conservative Party in Scotland, but I never had that experience. Most people were supportive, although one was extremely negative.”
And he has found a welcoming church in St John’s, Waterloo, where he values the teaching, fellowship and the wide age group.
Although he became a Christian in 2013, he said that he did not want to talk to the press about it until his confirmation. He feared that it would be dismissed as ‘phase’. But he was confirmed in Southwark Cathedral in May, 2015, the day after his birthday. And from then onwards he has embraced the many opportunities he has to talk about his faith.
He is in high demand in the media for his views as he works now as a campaigner for HIV issues and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and Gay Times among others.
“I always try to make a point of including something about my faith because that is the most important thing in my life.”
He has been in high demand ahead of the annual World Aids Day on 1 December and in every one of his talks and articles he has been determined to tell people about the difference his faith has made to his life.
“I want other LGBT people to realise that Christianity can be welcoming and supportive of them. My faith is a never ending source of nourishment and I feel so enriched by faith.”
Although the Church of England has been torn by the debate over human sexuality, he is determined to tell people about the good things the Church, his Church, offers.
“I have found the Church of England, particularly St John’s [where he is an altar server], to be welcoming and inclusive. At St John’s they are interested in helping me develop as a person and celebrating my individuality.”
As a Stonewall Role Model he finds many opportunities to talk about issues surrounding HIV and while that drives him, he can’t resist the chance to talk about his relationship with Jesus.
Indeed, he says: “My identity as a happy, confident and successful HIV positive gay man, co-infected with Hep C, has been enhanced by incorporating Christianity into my life.”
Massive advances have been made in HIV treatment over recent years and while it was once a death sentence, now it is a life sentence. He points out that hardly anyone in the UK dies from Aids nowadays because the treatment for HIV prevents it developing. Those diagnosed with HIV can expect a normal life-span and live healthy lives. That is why he has been leading the campaign to encourage people to be tested in the run-up to World Aids Day.
Philip Baldwin is a man with two missions: informing people about HIV and telling them about the faith that has redefined him. And he wants everyone he meets to share in that ‘incredible journey of faith’.